St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a public liberal arts school facing an abrupt leadership transition after a sharp enrollment decline, named a veteran higher education administrator from Canada as its interim president Monday.

Ian Newbould, interim provost at the public University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, will take over at St. Mary’s on Aug. 1 for the 2013-14 academic year, the college announced.

St. Mary’s has been in upheaval since the disclosure in May that the college in rural Southern Maryland was more than 100 students short of its enrollment target of an entering freshmen class of 470. College officials estimated that the shortage would equate to a loss in tuition revenue of $3.5 million, about 5 percent of the school’s $74 million annual operating budget.

The unexpected enrollment plunge was considered a factor in the announcement June 4 that President Joseph R. Urgo will leave when his contract expires at the end of this month. Urgo, president since 2010, effectively resigned under pressure from the college’s Board of Trustees.

Newbould will make $325,000 in the coming year, in line with what Urgo was paid, board Chairwoman Gail Harmon said. She said Newbould was chosen in part because he helped improve enrollment systems at Mary Washington.

Ian Newbould, interim provost at the public University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, will take over at St. Mary’s on Aug. 1. (Gerry Broome/AP)

“We selected him primarily because he’s a problem solver,” Harmon said.

As the board prepares to embark on a presidential search, Harmon said, Newbould will not be a candidate to become Urgo’s long-term successor.

Newbould, who has been interim provost at Mary Washington for about 15 months, said he has decades of experience in higher education. A scholar of 19th-century British history, Newbould, who declined to give his age, said he is a native of Canada with a home in Toronto and dual Canadian-British citizenship.

Previously, Newbould served as president of Richmond, the American International University in London; North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, N.C.; and Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada.

In his new position, Newbould said, “the most important thing is to provide a sense of stability and calm, and to assure the college community that we will be fine, life will go on, difficulties will be surmounted.”

One of his first tasks will be hiring a new vice president and dean of admissions. Harmon said Patricia F. Goldsmith, who held that position under Urgo, is also leaving the college.

St. Mary’s said Charles “Chip” Jackson, vice president for business and finance, will be acting president in the weeks between Urgo’s departure and Newbould’s arrival.

Jackson said Monday that the college has continued to add students to its incoming class since May 1. The total, as of Monday, stood at 372. Classes for the fall term begin Sept. 3.

“Applications are still being accepted — apply today!” the college Web site said Monday.

Tuition and fees at St. Mary’s, a school of nearly 2,000 students, are $14,865 for Maryland residents and $28,665 for out-of-state students.

Jackson said the college has identified enough spending cuts to balance its budget without layoffs and without undermining academic offerings.

“The students who come here are going to get the full St. Mary’s experience,” he said.

The school, with a picturesque waterfront campus near the Chesapeake Bay, is considered an “honors college” that aspires to compete with elite institutions such as the College of William and Mary. The Fiske Guide to Colleges calls St. Mary’s “a well-kept secret,” and U.S. News & World Report ranks it 87th among national liberal arts colleges.